What Star Wars means to me
Like countless others, Star Wars inspired me to pursue my movie making career. Before seeing the behind-the-scenes TV specials and making of documentaries for Star Wars I had no clue that movie making was even a legitimate career choice. I began making videos by helping my brother and his friends with school projects and continued doing it with my own friends. By the time I was 12 years old I was determined to become a movie director. My parents were less thrilled, it didn't seem like a practical or realistic career goal to them. But Star Wars ignited a passion in me and it has not stopped.
There is a whole other type of Star Wars fan, one that still loves the visuals, the stories, and characters as much as I do, but has no interest in knowing how it was all put together. I have shelves dedicated to the making of books and all things George Lucas. I can't get enough of it. The immediate impact Star Wars had on the world is obvious, there were huge technical advances made in cinema for the first time in decades and "blockbuster" became a regular word in our vocabulary. But George Lucas' digital revolution had more far reaching implications than just the way Hollywood movies were produced.
Anybody starting out in filmmaking today owes a great deal to George Lucas' original vision for the future of cinema. The tools I use everyday were envisioned decades ago by Lucas and he stood out from the crowd by pursuing their development. I am not just talking about big visual effects. As a direct result of Star Wars we have ultra high definition camcorders, computer editing software, and surround sound in our homes. Before Star Wars no one really cared to realize any of these technologies. Now anybody has access to the tools to tell a great story, even with limited means. The far reaching affects of this cannot be understated and it should not be taken for granted.
That is why I am so upset that JJ Abrams is so adamant that the production of the new Star Wars movie ignore all of these advancements and go back to shooting on celluloid film. It's a technology that is over 100 years old. It's expensive. It deteriorates. It isn't good in low light. It scratches easily. It has a lot of noisy grain. It requires a lot of processing time and extra work. Plain and simple it is not the most ideal way to capture an image. I don't understand why anybody would ever want to shoot on it today other than for nostalgia or because they think they're too good for newer technology.
Is digital cinema perfect? No. Is film better? Maybe in a few ways, but not even close when you go down a check list of every consideration. Overall I'd pick many digital cameras over any film camera regardless of my movie's budget.
The decision to shoot a new Star Wars movie on film is a blasphemous statement that George Lucas got it wrong. Everything he invested in and developed was a waste of time, money, and effort. They're openly stating that the Prequel Trilogy was a failure and that it's time to go back to the way things were done over 3 decades ago. I agree that the Original Trilogy is better than the Prequels. But I don't believe it's because George Lucas was too caught up in pushing digital cinema further. In fact, I would say that advancing digital cinema was the Prequels greatest strength. To say that the Prequels were failures because they had computer generated characters and were shot on HD tape instead of film is as ill-informed as saying that Pixar movies are always number one at the box office because they are 3D animated instead of 2D hand drawn.
So what were the shortcomings of the Prequels? It can be boiled down to one word, story. I hope that doesn't sound like an oversimplification. In fact story is the culmination of thousands and thousands of decisions, big and small, made by hundreds of people. In the end one man was at the helm and the final decisions were his alone. There are redemptive qualities that the Prequels possess, in spite of their shortcomings. I still enjoy watching them and am happy that those new movies were made in my lifetime. Likewise, I am thrilled that Star Wars gets to continue for the foreseeable future. Currently I am most looking forward to the series "Star Wars Rebels."
What about Episode VII? Sure, I'm jealous that I don't get to be the one to make it (as are many others). But it's more than that. Star Wars means so much to so many of us and I have my reservations. Part of the magic of Star Wars is giving us something new in a way that we haven't seen before. So I am highly suspicious of the Episode VII crew's idea that shooting in London on traditional film cameras with the original cast will somehow recapture the nostalgia of the originals. Lightning seldom strikes in the same place twice. So instead of looking back, why don't they look forward?
I admire filmmakers like Peter Jackson who are bold enough to experiment and try something new. I didn't originally agree with his decision to shoot the Hobbit in 3D HFR, but I respect him for doing it. Setting my own biases and personal tastes aside, I sincerely believe that new Star Wars movies should be done with a similar approach. There is an entire generation of Star Wars fans that have spent more time in the Star Wars Universe playing video games than watching the movies. And looking to the future, many movie goers will see traditional 24fps film much like we look at 16fps silent black and white film today. The technology already exists to please the audience of the future as well as audiences right now. So why not take the risk?
Whether it's old technology or new technology, it is still technology and therefor requires a technical process. The advances that have been made in digital cinema are there to benefit us as filmmakers by removing unnecessary difficulties and allowing us to stay focused on more important things like story. Digital is not a distraction, it enables artists to do better work than ever could before. Thank you George Lucas for making movies better.